The flag you see is actually the 39th version of the United States of America’s flag. For a country that prides itself on enduring traditions, we have a curious commitment to change: every time we bring a new state into the Union, we redesign our flag by adding one more five-pointed star. It’s a powerful symbol of the central leadership role states play in our system of government.
While many of the most important issues we face are increasingly decided at the national level, education stands out as one of the few key issues that has remained overwhelmingly local throughout our 235-year history. Money talks, and 91 percent of all of the funding for our public schools comes from local and state governments. In fact, most of the key education reforms under debate will succeed or fail based on state legislation and implementation: teacher and principal certification, evaluation systems, charter laws, funding formulas, data systems, state standards, turnaround strategies and school interventions.
For some people, this is a problem to solve. How can we hope to make progress on our nation’s education problems if we have to do it one state at a time? Who wants to build 50 sets of policy recommendations, support 50 state leaders and build 50 movements for change?
50CAN’s mission is to identify and support local leaders who build citizen movements in their states to ensure that every child has access to a great public school.
We don’t fight against our long-held tradition of local leadership on education, we embrace it. When we look at America’s states, we don’t see 50 problems to solve, we see 50 opportunities for amazing leaders to emerge. Our job is to find these 50 stars and help them restore the American dream by giving the kids in their states the education they deserve.
We are not a national organization that has decided to work in the states, but instead a state organization dedicated to supporting amazing local leaders across the nation. I worked for six years helping ConnCAN leader Alex Johnston and our Connecticut board build a movement of more than 30,000 citizens across the state that secured nine major policy victories and 11 dollars in public investment in education reforms for every dollar we spent on advocacy. Now I am working beside a team of committed policy experts and advocates to help four more amazing state leaders—in Rhode Island, Minnesota, Maryland and New York—build movements that will change their states for the better by putting their students back on top.
And this is just the beginning.